Fishing contests are helping to keep many anglers busy, from walleye tournaments to bass tournaments, from salmon and trout tournaments to derbies and statewide competitions. If you enjoy a good contest or you are just looking for an excuse to be on the water, you might want to check out many of the derbies and tournaments ongoing or coming up in the near future. These are also a great way to gauge a particular fishery. On the local front, it’s the 27th Annual Erie Canal Derby going on through Sunday the 16th. Some pretty impressive catches have already come to the scales that will be tough to beat. For example, Michael Boncore of Buffalo is leading the carp category with a 28.02-pound fish; Todd Wells of Medina leads the sheepshead category with an 11.39 pounder ; and Charles Rizzo of North Tonawanda has the leading catfish with a 14 pounder. Keegan Walczak of Amhert is currently in first place in the northern pike division with a 9.65-pound fish and Andy Moule of Lyndonville has the first-place bullhead, a 2.25-pound fish. Top walleye is a 5.19-pound fish reeled in by Albert Whaley of Tonawanda. James Benzinger of North Carolina is leading the bass division with a 3.06-pound fish. Meanwhile, area waters are still at the top of the Lake Ontario stage for the Summer LOC Derby that is going on through July 30. Leading grand prize salmon is still a 27-pound fish caught by Lee Beaton of Clifton Springs caught out of Wilson, and first place salmon is another Wilson fish, a 26-pound, 10-ounce king weighed in by Charles Jaenecke of North Tonawanda. Steve Klejdys of North Tonawanda is back at the top of the lake trout leaderboard with a 23-pound, 13-ounce Niagara Bar fish and Darryl Raate of Fulton is in first place in the steelhead division with a 13-pound trout he caught while fishing out of Wilson. Top brown trout is a 16-pound, 2-ounce fish weighed in by Joey Guernsey of McGraw while fishing out of Fair Haven. In Rob Ray’s Big Dawg Tournament last weekend on Lake Erie, the Big Fish Friday event saw Team Underdog save the day with a 9.48-pound walleye. That was the team of Dennis Pillard, Nick and Garrett Schmitt. The check was for $1,000. Unfortunately, Mother Nature cancelled the Saturday event.
Salmon fishing continues to be very good. If you have a smaller boat and you don’t have downriggers, give it a go with dipsy divers, slide divers, DW deeper divers or Chinook divers to name but a few trolling tools that can get you into the fish zone. Capt. Frank Campbell of Niagara Falls had customers who wanted to catch some salmon recently so he headed out to the Niagara Bar, one of the hottest salmon spots on the lake. Tyrone Johnson and Charlie Lewis of Philadephia, Pa., hit the water just off the drop in 150 to 250 feet of water. They found on this day, the fish zone was 50 to 60 feet down. He ran his divers on a No. 2 setting, 120 and 140 feet back. He had another set 125 feet back on a zero setting. Using spin doctors and A-Tom-Mik flies in glow green and ice colors, Johnson and Lewis had their six salmon in short order. If you want to follow the LOC Derby leaderboard, check out www.loc.org. If you are going fishing on the lake, you can sign up for just a day if you’d like.
The dreaded moss really hasn’t been that bad in the Niagara River to the delight of bass casters from boat and shore. Casting spinnerbaits along the shoreline in Devil’s Hole continues to be a fun option for smallmouth bass. From shore, the same result was being reported by Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls. He caught a dozen bass and a couple suckers tossing a - inch pearl tube jig. He also had quite the surprise when a 9-pound rainbow hit the same pearl tube. All were caught on 6-pound test line … in 70-plus degree water. In the upper Niagara River, bass and walleye are still cooperating. A few musky have been reported, too. You never know what’s going to happen sometimes. For Capt. Mark McGranahan of Sparky’s Charters, he snuck into the river to try and catch some fish for customers because it was too rough on Lake Erie earlier this week. They would try for bass. First cast was a 42-inch musky. They are supposed to be the fish of 10,000 casts. He should have bought a lottery ticket. Walleye and bass are still cooperating around Strawberry Island and the head of the river. Spinner and a worm is always good bait to start with.
Walleye fishing continues to be good to very good, but it helps to find the right structure or a small school of fish you can pick apart. Off Buffalo, Capt. John DeLorenzo of Niagara Falls heads off Buffalo toward the Canadian line until he hits 50 plus feet of water. He’s found fish as deep at 58 foot. He then turns around and starts to work his way back toward Buffalo, using four rods set up with bottom bouncers. His speed is 1.2 to 1.4 mph, using his electric trolling motor on the bow to provide the speed and boat control. Two rods off the front of the boat are using 5- to 6-ounce weights off the three-way rig. Two rods off the back of the boat have 3-ounce weights. All his three-ways are rigged with worm harnesses. He really likes the Three-D harnesses with his favorite being the Nuclear Green blades. Silver, green stripe, gold and copper also work for him. He also adds in different combinations of red, green and/or orange beads. When you hit a fish, mark the spot. You may find a pod of fish adapting to some structure. Most of his fish are 3 to 5 pounds. If you want bigger fish, head down toward Dunkirk. Capt. Lance Ehrhardt of Sassafras Charters had been hitting some bigger fish, but not as many as the guys toward Buffalo. Try stickbaits in the top 30-40 feet of water over 75 feet, three or five colors of lead core behind the boards. Capt. Joe Fonzi reports some good bass fishing off Eighteen Mile Creek in 26 to 33 feet of water. He was using drop shot rigs with shiners or Jackall crosstails. Justin Damude of Buffalo, who works closely with Thumbs Up Charters, has been doing very well fly fishing for deep water bass in the lake. Goby and crawfish patterns have been productive around structure piles. He’s been picking off some suspended fish.